Now Open!

Boating season is here! In Boats, our new summer exhibit, kids can captain their own adventures in an authentic "boatscape" overlooking Lake Michigan.

From bow to stern, Boats offers an immersive nautical experience, with a dock and bait shop, an assortment of boats and boating equipment, authentic signage—including the nautical flag alphabet—and accessories such as captain's jacket, life vests, steering wheels, sails, buoys, fishing poles and Lake Michigan fish. Lending to the realism is the spectacular view of Lake Michigan and boats along Navy Pier's South Dock that serve as the exhibit's backdrop.

Designed by Chicago Children's Museum, Boats provides a fertile environment for the unstructured, pretend play that's essential for a child's development, particularly for Pre-K through early-elementary ages. Early childhood experts agree that when children fully engage in make-believe, they are building language and problem-solving skills, working through emotions and learning to collaborate with their peers. Moreover, this exhibit taps into children’s natural fascination with boats, allowing them to play with an abandon not possible in a real boating situation.

Whether seasoned sailor or nautical novice, toddlers to tweens will be inspired to create their own lake-faring scenarios, like steering the ship, kayaking, hoisting the sail or dropping a fishing line to catch "the big one." A two-level work boat, complete with a bunk and kitchen prep area, features a wheelchair-accessible lower cabin and boundless opportunities for kids to become cooks, biologists, captains, deck hands or whatever roles they choose.

Boats will be open at Chicago Children's Museum through November 1.